I have to admit: this one gets me too.
I think the problem is that everyone out there who tries to explain it goes so stinking in-depth that they just make it more confusing than it needs to be.
I found articles that flung around transitive and intransitive… tenses… participles… Ugh! Can anyone explain the English Language in ENGLISH, PLEEEEEEAAASE? I mean, really… I am an English major. I love words, but you need to be able to write so people can understand what you are saying! (Sorry, that is a rant for another day.)
Anyway… in translating all these over-worded college professors… this is what I came up with:
A few common parenting faux pas have just reiterated the lay verses lie problem from the time we are children. I have to admit I do this stuff too, but I am going to try to watch myself from now, on.
(By the way… There is no plural form of “faux pas.” I thought it looked weird too. I looked it up to check.)
Common child’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep”
Since this is in the present tense, it should actually be “Now I lie me down to sleep.”
What do you say to your dog? “Go lay down.”
Nope. Start telling them to “Go lie down.”
(I am saying dog there because I realized that I tell my kids to Lie down, but I tell my dog to Lay down. My kids are hearing it both ways. Yeah, I’m not screwing them up too much.
I found this spreadsheet on Grammer-Worksheets.com. I think it does a pretty good job of laying it all out (no pun intended.)
|lie (to stretch out, recline)
|lay (to place, to put)
Now, do you notice what I notice? Look at the past tense of “Lie”
Let’s not make it too confusing now!
I wrote a post yesterday saying “As I lay on the table”. I was reading up on all this and I thought, “Crud, I didn’t lay on the table, I guess I lied on the table.—No, maybe it’s lie.” I was all ready to go back and change it while I was researching this, until I found this chart. You can lie down on a table, but two days ago, you lay on the table. I was actually right the first time.
What I suggest you do if you struggle with this, is copy this chart and print it out. Tape it to your wall. When you run into the Lay/Lie conundrum, think: “Am I reclining or stretching, or am I placing an object somewhere.”
If you place the salt on the table, you lay it on the table. If you are going to bed, you lie down.
Easy enough, right? Until you switch it to past tense and screw yourself all up anyway.
Ah, the joys of the English Language!